Coastal and Tropical South

April, 2012
Regional Report

Be Smart about Saucers

We grow plants in pots everywhere, usually with saucers beneath them to protect surfaces below. Indeed, if pots do not drain, roots can rot. If irrigation water sits in the saucer below after it runs through, it will leaves the soil saturated and lead to rotted roots. So empty the saucers, suck up the excess water with a plastic turkey baster, or take the saucers away until watering is done.

Fertilize Wisely

Most gardeners use soluble fertilizers, those that are mixed with water, to keep nutrition coming to container plants. The solubles should be mixed just as you plan to use them, not stored, and poured onto plants as a drench. Some can also be sprayed directly onto leaves. Many formulas exist, meant to suit every possible kind of plant, but most gardeners keep two on hand. A balanced formula where the big three numbers in the analysis are the same will promote healthy leaves and overall growth. Once the plants are ready to bloom, use one that has a lower first number to promote flowering.

Choose Plants for Baskets

Hanging baskets are handy and handsome, but not only gardeners are attracted to them. House wrens are notorious for building nests in newly hung ferns and other baskets with loose soil that contains plants with soft leaves. Luckily, they are only in residence for a few weeks. You can abandon the plants temporarily to enjoy the birds and fledglings, or choose cacti and rough-leaved plants like lantana to grace the hanging baskets.

Choose Plants for Ponds

If you have not cleaned out the water feature yet, you are late, so get busy. While you are at it, add container plants to the pond or water garden. Plants such as gorgeous water lilies, all kinds of cannas, LA iris, and white swamp spider lilies grow well in pots plunged right into the water. Using potted plants in and around the water makes the plants easier to remove when the time comes to clean your water garden.

Find the Perfect Pot

The quality of garden containers is not always obvious. We may think of terra cotta clay pots as beautiful, even fashionable, while plastic pots can seem simply utilitarian. Gardeners should shed those stereotypes right now. Plastic pots are solid and may be more durable than porous clay pots. Their differences determine how often you need to water. Clay pots dry out faster, circulate air better around roots, and reflect more heat than plastic. But plastic pots forgive forgotten waterings, are lighter in weight, and come in more colors, including terra cotta.

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